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Full text of "The phantom bouquet : a popular treatise on the art of skeletonizing leaves and seed-vessels and adapting them to embellish the home of taste"

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JP: ; 

Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 
in  2017  with  funding  from 
Getty  Research  Institute 







(Embellish  the  §ome  of  fete* 








Entered  according  to  Act  of  Congress,  in  the  year  1862,  by 

i«  the  Clerk’s  Office  of  the  District  Court  of  the  United  States  for  the  Easter 
District  of  Pennsylvania. 

§o  Jtttj;  Wife, 







This  essay  was  written  in  the  autumn  of  1861 
for  the  Atlantic  Monthly ,  and  accepted  for  publi¬ 
cation  by  the  editors  of  that  popular  Magazine  ; 
but  the  pressure  upon  its  pages  has  prevented 
the  appearance  of  an  article  which  is  so  little  in 
accordance  with  the  tone  of  the  current  American 
literature  during  the  past  eventful  year.  The 
numerous  applications  to  the  author  for  instruc¬ 
tions  in  the  art  of  Skeletonizing  have  induced 
the  determination  to  delay  its  publication  no 
longer,  and  to  change  it  from  a  magazine  article 
to  a  small  practical  work,  adapted  to  aid  the 
tyro  in  attaining  a  perfect  acquaintance  with  the 
subject  of  which  it  treats.  It  is  hardly  necessary 
to  acknowledge  the  aid  derived  from  numerous 
friends  of  both  sexes,  who  have  freely  imparted 
the  results  of  their  experience  in  the  matter  in 
hand.  Of  course,  all  skeleton izers  have  learned 
by  this  time  that  it  is  only  by  communicating 
what  they  know  that  they  can  expect  to  receive 
in  turn  the  ideas  of  others,  and  thus  promote 
our  beautiful  pursuit  to  its  true  position  among 
the  liberal  arts. 



SOME  years  ago  the  writer  was  attracted 
by  a  beautiful  vase  of  prepared  leaves 

and  seed-vessels,  displaying  the  delicate 

(Jp*  veinings  of  these  plant-structures  de¬ 
prived  of  their  grosser  particles,  and  of  such 
brilliant  whiteness  as  to  suggest  the  idea  of  per¬ 
fectly  bleached  artificial  lace- work  or  exquisite 
carvings  in  ivory.  This  elegant  parlor  orna¬ 
ment  was  brought  by  returning  travellers  as 
a  novel  and  choice  trophy  of  their  trans¬ 
atlantic  wanderings :  none  could  be  procured 
in  America,  and  no  one  to  whom  the  per¬ 
plexed  admirer  could  appeal  was  able  to  give 
a  clue  to  the  process  by  which  such  surprising 
beauty  and  perfection  of  detail  could  be 



evolved  from  structures  which  generally  rani 
among  the  least  admired  expansions  of  the 
tissue  of  the  plant. 

That  the  novelty  of  this  spectacle  then 
constituted  one  of  its  attractions  need  not 
be  denied ;  for  who  that  has  learned  to  dwell 
familiarly  on  any  object  of  unusual  beauty, 
but  can  still  recall  the  emotions  of  delight 
it  created  when  for  the  first  time  it  attracted 
the  unaccustomed  eye  ?  Yet  the  “  Phantom 
Case,”  now  that  hundreds  of  pier-tables  and 
etageres  in  city  and  country  are  garnished 
with  its  airy  forms,  and  its  photographic 
miniature,  under  the  well-chosen  motto, 
“Beautiful  in  death,”  is  displayed  in  almost 
every  stereoscope,  still  delights  with  a  peren¬ 
nial  charm,  creating  a  desire,  among  all 
amateurs  in  matters  of  taste,  to  add  an  orna¬ 
ment  so  chaste  to  their  household  treasures. 
To  this  end,  an  unpretending  though  sincere 
lover  of  nature  proposes  to  lay  before  his 
fellows  of  that  genial  fraternity  which  knows 
neither  sex  nor  nation,  a  simple  and  easy 



art,  which,  while  it  will  prove  a  pleasurable 
addition  to  the  arcana  of  home-occupations, 
will  in  its  results  add  to  the  tasteful  embe- 
lishments  of  the  household. 

Reader,  suppose  not  that  this  elegant  art 
for  which  we  have  no  more  elegant  name 
than  Skeletonizing,  is  any  thing  new  under 
the  sun.  Place  it  rather  among  the  lost  arts 
revived;  for  among  the  quaint  old  curiosities 
to  he  found  in  the  houses  of  retired  sea-cap¬ 
tains  and  East  India  traders  vou  will  often 


find  Chinese  pictures,  sometimes  of  consider¬ 
able  beauty  and  ingenuity,  exhibiting  flowers, 
fruit,  shells,  birds,  or  insects  painted  in  bright 
colors  on  veritable  skeleton  leaves.  More¬ 
over,  some  of  the  old  London  books  we  have 
lately  forgotten  to  read  give  accounts  of  the 
identical  process,  and  tell  us  that,  as  long  ago 
as  1645,  Marcus  Aurelius  Severinus,  professor 
of  anatomy  and  surgery  at  Naples,  turned 
his  attention  to  the  subject,  and  published  a 
figure  of  a  leaf  thus  delicately  prepared.  But 
this  ingenious  disciple  of  Aesculapius,  accord- 



ing  to  the  fashion  of  his  time,  kept  the  process 
a  secret,  and  so  we  owe  probably  the  first 
published  account  of  the  method  of  preparing 
plant-skeletons  to  a  Dutch  naturalist,  Fredrick 
Ruysch  by  name,  who  in  1723  first  gave  to 
the  world  the  announcement  that,  through 
the  putrefactive  fermentation  promoted  by 
warmth  and  moisture,  the  pulpy  matter  of 
the  leaf  may  be  loosened  so  as  to  be  separated 
from  the  fibrous  skeleton,  which  may  thus  be 
preserved  unimpaired.  This,  reader,  is  the 
secret  which  has  for  the  past  year  attracted 
so  much  attention  in  the  neighborhood  of 
Philadelphia :  it  was  at  first  communicated 
in  under-tones  by  certain  confidential  lady 
amateurs  to  their  amateur  friends,  with  scru¬ 
pulous  injunctions  of  secrecy ;  but  now  many 
observations  and  experiences  have  been  ex¬ 
changed,  and  in  this  charmed  circle  the  new 
art  has  attained  to  greater  perfection  than 
could  have  been  expected  in  a  single  season. 

An  incidental  but  important  result  of  the 
cultivation  of  this  elegant  pursuit  is  an 



increased  attention  to  leaves.  Many  to  whom 
a  leaf  was  formerly  an  object  of  not  the  least 
interest,  except  perhaps  in  its  connection  with 
the  beauty  and  effect  of  the  shade-tree,  or  as 
adding  to  the  variety  of  the  landscape,  now 
eagerly  examine  it  in  detail,  with  reference  to 
its  adaptation  to  the  phantom  case,  and  study 
its  outline,  whether  serrated  or  entire  on  its 
margin,  divided,  lanceolate,  ovate,  acuminate, 
cordate,  or  irregular  in  shape.  Ferns  and 
lycopods  are  carefully  searched  for,  with  a 
similar  end  in  view ;  and,  strange  to  say,  the 
somewhat  unsightly  burs,  the  persistent 
calyxes,  and  dry  and  indurated  seed-vessels 
of  our  wayside  weeds,  are  invested  with  a 
new  interest  by  their  suspected  or  ascertained 
fitness  for  projected  skeleton  cases.  Since  the 
past  summer,  hundreds  of  these  have  been 
made  tributary  to  the  most  chaste  and  re¬ 
fined  ornamentation. 

Without  inflicting  on  tlie  reader  a  mis¬ 
placed  disquisition  on  Botany,  or  its  correla¬ 
tive  science,  Vegetable  Physiology,  it  may 
he  here  explained  that  the  leaf,  considered 
in  its  physiological  relations,  is  to  the  plant 
what  the  digestive  and  breathing  organs  are 
to  the  animal.  Its  porous  structure  permits 
it  to  be  permeated  by  moisture  drawn  up 
from  the  soil  through  the  root  and  stem,  and 
also  by  the  air  in  which  it  so  incessantly 
vibrates.  These  elements,  charged  with 
nrinciples  adapted  to  the  nutriment  of  the 
plant,  meet  in  the  leaf-tissue,  where  they  are 
metamorphosed  into  the  true  elements  of 
growth,  and  elaborated  into  new  cells  fitted 
to  develop  and  increase  the  living  and  grow¬ 
ing  plant.  By  what  subtle  influences  the 
sun’s  ray,  acting  on  these  gaseous  and  liquid 

particles,  works  to  such  marvellous  ends, 



producing  the  innumerable  vegetable  forms, 
from  the  slender  grass  to  the  massive  oak, 
and  all  the  infinite  variety  of  fruits  of  the 
field  and  flowers  of  the  meadow  and  garden, 
Science  has  in  vain  sought  to  answer.  Only 
the  microscope,  through  its  mysterious  reveal- 
ings,  points  to  the  cell  as  the  initial,  almost 
infinitely  minute,  alembic  in  which  this 
inscrutable  and  beneficent  synthesis  is  ever 
going  on. 

What  the  older  botanists  were  wont  to  call 
nerves,  but  the  modern  have  named  veins, 
are  spread  more  thoroughly  over  the  leaf 
than  would  appear  from  an  examination  of 
the  surfaces :  in  fact,  the  loosely  distributed 
cellular  tissue  is  everywhere  traversed  by 
these  ducts,  conveying  the  sap  to  the  ex¬ 
tremities,  there  to  be  subjected  to  the  subtle 
chemistry  of  the  cell.  The  mode  of  distri¬ 
bution  of  these  veins  is  one  of  the  leading 
characteristics  observed  in  the  classification  of 
plants.  The  two  great  divisions  of  Endogens 
and  Exogens,  having  distinct  methods  of 



growth  and  distinct  structure  of  the  seeds, 
differ  by  a  distribution  in  the  one  case  of 
the  veins  in  curved  lines  from  the  origin  to 
the  apex  of  the  leaf,  while  in  the  other  and 
far  more  numerous  and  important  class  they 
diverge  for  the  most  part  at  regular  angles 
from  a  central  stem,  called  the  midrib,  to  the 
margin.*  That  this  distinction  is  not  artifi¬ 
cial,  or  invented  to  detract  unnecessarily 
from  the  uninterrupted  gradations  of  plant- 
structure,  will  be  apparent  to  any  observer 
who  will  take  note  of  the  peculiarities  of 
each  of  these  great  classes.  To  the  skele- 
tonizer  it  will  be  interesting  to  know  that 
very  few  of  the  Endogens  have  firm  enough 
structure  in  their  veinings  to  furnish  speci¬ 
mens  for  his  art :  only  two  or  three  are 
known  to  the  writer,  of  which  the  common 
climbing  green  brier  ( Smilax  rotundifolia ) 
and  wild  yam  (Dioscorea  villosa)  are  the 
most  familiar. 

See  figures  1  and  2. 

Fig.  1 

(jrien  Briar  Leaf,  the  under  surface,  showing  the 
venation  of  an  endogenous  leaf. 

Site  a  $11  pc  of  ifoe  Site. 

The  veinings  of  the  leaf  exhibit  striking 
evidence  of  that  unity  of  design,  combined 
with  special  adaptations,  displayed  in  every 
department  of  nature. 

What  the  trunk  and  branches  are  to  the 
tree,  are  the  veins  to  the  exogenous  leaf. 
By  continuity  and  compactness  of  structure, 
the  delicate  spiral  fibres  which  constitute 
the  veins  are  endowed  with  strength  and 
elasticity  adapting  them  to  sustain  and  sup¬ 
ply  the  loose  tissue  which  fills  up  the  inter¬ 
stices  between  them,  while,  obeying  the 
primal  law  of  growth  stamped  upon  the 
parent  tree,  each  separate  leaf  spreads  its 
continuous  skeleton  into  a  flattened  outline 
of  the  tree  itself. 

A  glance  at  the  well-developed  tree  by 
twilight,  stripped  of  its  leaves,  with  nothing 
to  obstruct  its  figure  against  the  sky,  will 

2  13 



scarcely  fail  to  recall,  to  one  accustomed  to 
observe  and  to  compare,  the  general  outline 
and  arrangement  of  the  skeleton  leaf.  Nor 
is  this  a  mere  fancied  resemblance.  Dr. 
McCosh,  of  the  Queen’s  University,  Ireland, 
in  his  comprehensive  work  on  “Typical 
Forms  and  Special  Ends  in  Creation,”  has 
demonstrated  the  correspondence  between  the 
disposition  and  distribution  of  the  branches 
of  the  tree  and  of  the  leaf-veins.  The  very 
angles  at  which  the  branches  leave  the  trunk 
are  shown  to  correspond  in  many  individual 
cases  with  those  formed  by  the  lateral  veins 
and  midrib  upon  the  leaf;  and  even  the 
curves  which  give  grace  and  contour  to  the 
tree  are  repeated  among  the  veins  which 
permeate  its  leaves.  This  is  believed  to  be 
a  great  natural  law  throughout  the  almost 
infinite  variety  of  vegetable  forms. 

We  rarely  see  trees  which  have  not  been 
somewhat  changed  from  their  normal  mode 
of  growth  by  prevailing  winds,  or  too  partial 
sunlight,  or  by  cattle  browsing  on  them,  or 



man  pruning  or  otherwise  mutilating  them: 
yet  so  far  as  the  true  pattern  of  the  whole 
plant  has  been  studied,  it  is  found  to  corre¬ 
spond  beautifully  with  that  of  its  every 
single  leaf. 

Observe,  also,  how  often  the  length  of  the 
petiole,  or  leaf-stalk,  has  a  direct  relation  to 
the  height  reached  by  the  stem  in  its  unob¬ 
structed  growth  before  branches  strike  off 
from  it.  In  the  case  of  the  box,  the  privet, 
the  laurel,  the  snowberry,  and  other  favorite 
lawn  or  hedge  plants,  and  the  oak,  the  elm, 
the  beech,  and  some  other  common  forest- 
trees,  which  when  unpruned  incline  to  send 
out  branches  from  the  very  base,  the  leaf,  in 
botanical  language,  is  almost  sessile,  sitting 
directly  upon  the  stem;  while  those  which 
have  naturally  a  bare  trunk,  such  as  the 
cherry,  the  apple,  the  pear,  the  chestnut,  the 
poplar,  and,  above  all,  our  splendid  American 
tulip  poplar  tree,  have  leaf-stalks  of  greater 
length,  sometimes  exceeding  that  of  the  leaf 



Without  designing  to  pursue  this  some¬ 
what  abstruse  subject  farther  than  will  suffice 
to  vindicate  its  interest  and  importance  and 
lead  the  amateurs  of  our  art  to  trace  out 
these  relations  for  themselves,  it  will  suffice, 
in  conclusion,  to  direct  attention  to  a  pecu¬ 
liarity  in  the  arrangement  of  certain  divided 
and  compound  leaves,  which  accords  beauti¬ 
fully  with  the  idea  we  have  been  attempting 
to  illustrate. 

Our  familiar  sycamore  or  buttonwood  tree 
has  a  very  characteristic  growth.  Its  bare 
trunk,  rising '  eight  or  ten  feet  from  the 
ground,  commonly  divides  itself  at  once  into 
four  or  five  branches  of  great  length,  the 
whole  aspect  of  the  tree  in  its  branching 
and  leafage  being  loose  and  open;  so  its  leaf, 
branching  out  from  a  long  foot-stalk,  is  sus¬ 
tained  by  five  midribs,  the  intervening  struc¬ 
ture  being  extremely  delicate,  so  much  so 
that  no  skeletonizer  with  whom  I  am  ac¬ 
quainted  has  succeeded  in  separating  and  pre¬ 
serving  it.  The  horse-chestnut  presents  a 



similar  instance.  The  seven  branches  into 
which  its  leaf-stalk  divides,  constituting  as 
many  separate  leaflets,  follow  the  same  type 
as  the  perfect  tree  which  spreads  from  the 
top  of  its  bare  trunk  a  whorl  of  ascending 
and  spreading  branches. 

Reader,  we  may  now  be  charged  with 
having  trenched  somewhat  upon  the  domain 
of  the  imagination ;  and  if  the  stern  logic  of 
unexplained  or  conflicting  facts  is  brought  in 
contact  with  these  inspiring  ideas,  sustained 
as  they  are  by  many  observations  of  un¬ 
doubted  import,  let  us  not  contend,  but 
rather  confess  that,  like  all  human  strivings 
after  the  archetypes  of  nature,  this  may  con¬ 
tain  such  errors  as  are  inseparable  from  im¬ 
perfect  observing  powers  and  the  finite  rea¬ 
son  of  human  beings,  whose  “knowledge  is 
patchwork,”  after  all.  We  may,  however, 
derive  from  such  observations  much  plea¬ 
sure;  they  will  impart  new  and  unexpected 
interest  to  the  objects  to  which  they  relate, 
and  give  to  the  process  of  skeletonizing, 



which  unmasks  the  structure  of  the  leaf,  a 
practical  and  a  scientific  importance  little 
anticipated  by  those  who  have  pursued  it 
with  an  exclusive  view  to  its  ornamental 
and  aesthetic  results. 

Leaf  of  the  Beech  Tree,  showing  midrib 
and  lateral  veins,  present  in  most  exo¬ 
genous  leaves 

How  mut  to  Mut 

Skeletonizing  may  be  out  of  season  when 
this  essay  for  the  first  time  falls  into  the 
hands  of  the  reader;  but  as  soon  as  the  sum¬ 
mer  foliage  has  fully  expanded  in  luxuriant 
variety,  the  collection  of  material  may  com¬ 
mence.  It  is  important  that  the  amateur 
should  make  the  proper  choice  of  leaves.  It 
will  be  observed  that  those  which  have  just 
opened  upon  the  fresh-grown  terminations 
of  the  limbs  are  relatively  softer,  of  a  lighter 
color  and  more  delicate  fibre,  than  those 
which  expanded  at  the  first  summons  of  the 
spring,  in  close  proximity  to  the  solid  woody 
branches.  The  little  suckers  which  are  apt 
to  grow  up  from  the  origin  of  the  roots  often 
bear  enormous  leaves,  but  with  very  little 

Every  leaf  for  our  purpose  should  be  fully 
formed,  having  attained  the  firmness  belong- 




ing  to  complete  maturity,  and  should  be 
without  a  blemish.  The  punctures  made  by 
insects  are  often  fatal  to  success  when  every 
other  condition  has  been  fulfilled.  In  an 
appendix  to  this  essay,  prepared  with  the  aid 
of  Dr.  J.  Gibbons  Hunt,  and  several  ladies 
of  experience  in  the  art,  a  list  is  given  of 
those  trees  the  leaves  of  which  Ave  know  to 
have  been  successfully  skeletonized.  Almost 
any  or  all  of  our  deciduous  shade-trees 
might  probably  be  included;  and,  variety  as 
Avell  as  beauty  of  form  being  kept  in  vieAv, 
the  pretty  little  leaves  of  the  box,  the  rose, 
the  pear,  and  the  apple  will  be  as  highly 
prized  as  those  of  the  larger  magnolias,  tulip 
poplars,  maples,  and  lindens. 

The  lemon,  orange,  Camilla,  caoutchouc, 
and  other  tropical  trees  found  in  our  green¬ 
houses,  besides  being  well  fitted  to  the  pro¬ 
cess,  have  the  advantage  of  being  obtainable 
in  the  Avinter,  when  our  OAvn  more  familiar 
trees  are  bare  and  leafless. 

No  leaves  need  be  gathered  from  herbs: 



the  organs  of  these  short-lived  tenants  of  the 
meadow  and  copse  are  formed  to  develop 
only  a  succulent  stem  and  soft,  flabby  leaf, 
which  will  soon  disappear  in  the  processes 
we  are  about  to  describe,  leaving  no  skeleton 
to  perpetuate  their  outlines.  The  various¬ 
leaved  oaks  are  unsuited  to  maceration  from 
a  different  cause:  they  have  developed 
underneath  their  glossy  and  tough  exterior 
a  principle  called  tannin,  which  gives  to  the 
nut-gall  and  oak-bark  their  great  commer¬ 
cial  value,  and  which  effectually  obstructs 
the  decomposition  by  which  we  propose  to 
get  at  the  delicate  lace-work  of  the  leaves. 


The  first  step  in  the  process  of  skeleton¬ 
izing  is  to  arrange  suitable  vessels  for  con¬ 
ducting  the  maceration.  Almost  any  utensils 
of  wood  or  earthenware  which  will  hold 
water  will  answer  the  purpose;  a  single 
vessel  will  serve,  but  there  is  an  advantage 
in  having  several,  so  as  to  separate  the  rough 
calyxes  from  the  tender  leaves,  and  of  leaves, 
to  place  such  as  are  porous  and  rapidly 
decomposable  apart  from  the  comparatively 
tough  and  unyielding.  The  specimens  are 
to  be  covered  with  soft  boiling  water,  and  to 
be  held  in  place  by  pieces  of  glass  or  other 
suitable  weights,  and  in  the  summer  placed 
on  a  shed  or  veranda,  preferably  exposed 
to  the  sun  during  part  of  the  day.  A  closet 
near  a  flue,  or  some  other  warm  situation, 
will  be  better  in  the  winter.  Fresh  water 

must  be  added  from  time  to  time,  to  compen- 




sate  for  evaporation,  but  otherwise  our  rather 
unsightly  and  presently  offensive  mass  is 
best  out  of  sight  and  out  of  mind.  In  four 
or  five  weeks  the  leaves  should  be  examined, 
and  upon  those  sufficiently  softened  to  admit 
of  cleaning,  this  somewhat  delicate  operation 
may  be  commenced. 

In  the  case  of  the  ivy,  holly,  and  some 
other  leaves,  after  maceration  the  tough  skin 
will  peel  off  from  the  two  faces  in  separate 
layers,  so  as  to  expose  the  skeleton  covered 
only  by  loose  parenchyma,  which  readily 
washes  off.  Maples,  linden,  elm,  horse-chest¬ 
nut,  abele,  and  others,  on  the  contrary, 
have  so  slight  an  epidermis  that  it  soon 
softens  and  decays.  They  require  a  differ¬ 
ent  treatment;  the  decayed  leaf,  being  laid 
smoothly  upon  a  plate  or  pane  of  glass, 
should  be  swept  lightly  over  with  a  soft 
tooth-brush  or  shaving-brush  till  cleaned, 
turning  the  leaf  over  at  intervals.  Some¬ 
times  it  Avill  be  found  necessary  to  return 
the  leaf  to  the  macerating  vessel,  to  complete 



the  softening  process.  Leaves  of  very  lacey 
and  delicate  texture  may  be  best  cleaned 
without  a  brush,  by  washing  them  gently 
between  the  thumb  and  finger  under  water. 

The  holly  is  one  of  the  most  difficult  leaves 
to  clean.  It  softens  by  maceration  in  from 
six  to  twelve  weeks,  but  the  skin  is  very 
difficult  to  separate  from  the  hard,  thickened 
edge,  and  especially  from  the  prickles:  a 
small  pair  of  forceps,  used  with  dexterity, 
will  assist  in  this  operation.  When  obtained 
in  a  perfect  condition,  this  skeleton,  like  the 
lemon,  japonica,  and  some  others,  displays  a 
complete  double  structure,  as  though  two 
perfect  leaves  had  been  laid  one  upon  the 
other  and  grown  together  at  the  edges. 
The  leaves  of  the  numerous  species  of  oak, 
and  of  hazel  and  buckthorn,  resist  the  pro¬ 
cess  of  maceration  so  persistently  as  to 
induce  a  resort  to  other  means  to  obtain 
their  shadowy  outlines. 

Fig.  3. 

Ivy — Silver  Poplar 



©tltn*  fjwtfiM*. 

One  process,  as  applied  to  oaks,  consists  in 
flattening  out  the  leaf,  previously  thoroughly 
browned  and  dried  by  means  of  a  hot  sad¬ 
iron,  and  then  gently  tapping  over  its  entire 
surface  with  a  tolerably  soft  clothes-brush.  If 
conducted  skilfully  and  thoroughly,  this  prick¬ 
ing  with  the  sharp  bristles  will  be  successful 
in  separating  the  skin  and  cellular  portions. 
But  skeletons  prepared  in  this  way  are 
seldom  so  delicate  or  so  perfect  as  those 
obtained  by  maceration,  and  are  also  so  diffi¬ 
cult  to  bleach  thoroughly  as  to  be  unavailable 
for  grouping  with  the  snow-white  products 
of  maceration. 

Boiling  with  soap  completely  loosens  the 
skin  of  some  leaves,  the  best  instance  we 
have  seen  being  that  of  acamelia  japonica, — 
a  beautiful  leaf, — the  skin  of  which  was 
blistered  over  the  whole  surface,  so  as  to 

3  25 



peel  off  with  perfect  facility,  and,  by  washing 
under  water  between  the  thumb  and  finger, 
became  a  perfect  skeleton.  No  allusion  has 
been  made  to  the  use  of  chemical  agents,  or 
the  substitution  of  long  boiling  for  the  pro¬ 
cess  of  maceration,  as  applied  to  leaves 
generally,  because  the  writer  has  had  but 
poor  success  with  either,  and  prefers  the 
slow  and  sure  method  already  described. 

It  yet  remains  to  notice,  in  connection 
with  oak-leaves,  what  cannot  fail  to  excite 
the  liveliest  pleasure  in  every  naturalist  who 
delights  to  seek  the  woods  and  streams  on 
chill  autumn  days,  though  all  the  fragrant 
epigeas,  the  delicate  bloodroots,  the  pale 
spring  beauties,  the  modest  “  quaker  ladies,” 
and  all  their  lovely  spring  companions,  have 
so  long  departed  as  to  diffuse  almost  a  feel¬ 
ing  of  sadness  in  visiting  the  now  desolate 
slopes  they  rendered  so  inviting.  Let  our 
amateur  note  what  became  of  the  leaves 
that,  having  performed  their  allotted  part  in 
the  growth  of  the  forest  and  ceased  to  be 
permeated  by  the  life-sustaining  sap,  have 
yielded  to  the  blast,  and  now  thickly  strew 
the  ground,  awakening,  as  stirred  by  the 
wind  or  the  foot  of  the  pedestrian,  the  fami¬ 
liar  rustle  of  the  autumnal  woods.  These 




are  all  destined  to  pass  into  the  earth  from 
which  they  sprang,  by  a  slow  but  sure  decay. 
The  oak-leaves,  as  would  be  supposed,  longest 
resist  this  destiny.  Even  those  that  have 
fallen  into  yonder  stream  have  not  matted 
themselves  into  the  slimy  mass  except  by 
mixing  with  other  and  less  hardy  leaves; 
and  here,  if  the  explorer  will  search  closely, 
he  may  occasionally  find  almost  perfectly 
skeletonized  oak-leaves.  How  came  they 
so?  Look:  provident  nature  has  found  a 
way  to  make  them,  intractable  as  they  are, 
to  subserve  a  purpose  in  her  wise  economy. 
Thousands  of  curious  little  animals,  called 
caddice-bugs,  who  envelop  themselves  in  a 
tubular  little  cocoon  of  pebbles  and  sand,  are 
daintily  masticating  the  soft  parts  of  these, 
leaving  all  the  veinings  as  perfect  as  the 
most  captious  skeletonizer  could  desire.  It 
is  true  that  after  the  rough  usage  of  the 
running  stream  upon  its  pebbled  bottom  and 
the  thick  matrix  of  twigs,  chestnut-burs, 
acorns,  and  the  like,  very  few  perfect  speci- 



mens  remain;  but  then,  my  friend,  here  is  a 
hint  for  us.  Change  these  adverse  condi¬ 
tions;  colonize,  by  the  aid  of  an  exploring 
kettle,  a  few  hundred  caddices,  with  their 
movable  tents,  to  your  own  sheltered 
veranda;  give  them  a  shallow  dish,  with  a 
bed  of  sand  in  the  bottom,  and  a  constant 
trickle  of  fresh  water  to  resemble  their 
native  stream;  then  supply  them  with  their 
favorite  leaf,  and  they  will  clean  it  for  you 
to  perfection.  This  has  been  done  success¬ 
fully,  and  it  can  be  done  again. 


Many  mature  seed-vessels,  and  the  calyxes 
of  certain  flowers,  may  be  skeletonized  by 
maceration  or  by  boiling.  These  add  greatly 
to  the  interest  and  beauty  of  the  phantom 
case;  though  it  is  an  obvious  fault  in  most 
of  those  prepared  in  England  that  they  are 
cumbered  with  too  many  large  and  compara¬ 
tively  opaque  objects,  at  the  expense  of  that 
airy  character  which  is  one  of  the  chief 
charms  of  these  ornaments.  That  unsightly 
weed  growing  with  rank  luxuriance  on 
almost  every  heap  of  rubbish,  especially  in 
the  suburbs  of  all  cities, — an  opprobrium  to 
1)0 th  hemispheres,  each  of  the  continents  dis¬ 
owning  its  origin,  though  all  know  it  but  too 
well, — the  thorn-apple,  or,  as  we  call  it  in 
America,  from  its  “discovery”  in  the  vicinity 
of  the  first  settlement  in  Virginia,  the  J ames- 

town  weed,  matures  a  bur  in  the  autumn,  a 



skeleton  of  which  is  present  in  almost  every 
phantom  case  I  have  seen.  This  should  he 
gathered  when  it  has  only  slightly  opened  at 
the  apex,  then  boiled  for  some  hours  or  mace¬ 
rated  for  several  weeks,  till  sufficiently  soft¬ 
ened,  and  scrubbed  with  a  tooth-brush  under 
a  running  stream  of  water  till  perfectly 
cleaned.  The  seeds  are  to  be  removed  by 
shaking,  and  the  cellular  structure,  called  the 
placenta,  pricked  out,  though  without  re¬ 
moving  the  beautiful  ligneous  structure  in 
which  it  is  embedded.  Water  should  be 
allowed  to  run  freely  through  the  bur  till  it 
is  perfectly  cleaned,  and  attention  should  be 
given  to  the  external  prickles,  that  every 
particle  of  the  skin  be  removed;  otherwise, 
after  bleaching,  these  prominent  tips  will  be 
less  white  than  the  rest.  So  tough  is  the 
ligneous  fibre  in  this  bur  that  it  may  be 
freely  opened  and  closed  without  breaking 
it  or  materially  weakening  its  union  with 
the  stem. 

Poppy-heads — the  pericarps  of  Papaver 



somniferum — require  only  about  two  weeks’ 
maceration.  As  imported  from  Turkey  and 
the  Levant,  they  are  generally  rather  large 
for  ordinary  phantom  cases;  but  the  little 
heads  produced  in  our  gardens  are  quite  deli¬ 
cate  and  appropriate.  The  former  should 
be  prepared  for  maceration  by  removing  the 
seeds  through  a  gimlet-hole  in  the  stem. 
The  delicate  lace-work  interspersed  among 
the  coarser  fibres  which  give  it  shape  is 
seldom  perfectly  preserved;  but,  if  a  little 
opening  is  found  necessary  in  the  side,  to 
remove  the  interior  decayed  structure,  it  will 
occur  to  every  one,  in  mounting  the  speci¬ 
mens,  to  present  the  fair  side  to  view. 

There  is  great  room  for  experiment  in  the 
use  of  seed-vessels  and  mature  calyxes,  the 
outer  floral  envelopes,  for  this  ornamental 
purpose.  Some  campanulas,  mallows,  nettles, 
and  scull-caps  have  already  been  rendered 
tributary  to  it;  and  in  the  English  cases  con¬ 
siderable  prominence  is  given  to  the  graceful 
bell-shaped  calyx  of  henbane,  and  of  the 





scarcely  less  elegant  belladonna  plants, 
which,  though  not  naturalized  in  the  United 
States,  are  cultivated,  and  sometimes  found 
growing  spontaneously  in  the  neighborhood 
of  botanic  gardens.  From  experience  in 
skeletonizing  the  inflated  calyx  of  the 
Nicandra  physaloides ,  or  ground  cherry,  and 
of  a  small  cultivated  species  of  purple  tomato 
brought  to  our  markets,  they  can  be  recom¬ 
mended  as  furnishing  most  delicate  addi¬ 
tions  to  the  phantom  case. 

The  large  heads  of  the  common  garden 
hydrangea  yield,  by  maceration,  fine  prepa¬ 
rations,  in  which  each  calyx  is  distinctly 
and  beautifully  skeletonized.  These  are  best 
mounted  in  little  clusters  or  as  single  flowers, 
attached  to  slender  stems,  where  their  extreme 
lightness  can  be  displayed  to  the  best  ad¬ 


Next  to  the  perfection  of  the  tissues,  their 
perfect  whiteness  is  most  important.  This  is 
best  secured  by  soaking  them  in  a  solution  of 
chloride  of  lime,  which  may  be  made  with 
water  alone  in  a  proportion  of  from  one  to 
four  ounces  of  the  chloride  to  the  pint.  More 
delicate  leaves  and  calyxes  require  a  weaker 
solution  than  that  used  for  the  stramonium 
and  poppy-heads  :  they  are  to  be  bleached  in 
a  glass  or  queensware  vessel,  and  removed 
in  a  few  hours,  or  as  soon  as  the  requisite 
brilliant  whiteness  is  reached,  then  washed 
off  with  clear  water  and  laid  away  to  be 

Some  sprigs  of  broom-corn,  and  the  delicate 
petioles  or  leaf-stalks  which  have  been  sepa¬ 
rated  from  the  leaves  in  skeletonizing,  should 
also  be  bleached,  as  they  will  be  needed  sub¬ 
sequently  in  mounting  the  specimens. 

Some  ferns,  lycopods,  and  mosses — espe- 




cially  when  browned  by  age  or  etiolated  by  the 
deep  shade  in  which  they  sometimes  grow — 
are  easily  bleached  and  adapted  to  occupy  con¬ 
spicuous  places  in  mounted  collections.  They 
contain  less  fibrous  structure  than  the  more 
highly  organized  leaves  used  for  skeletonizing, 
and  when  the  green  coloring-matter  of  their 
cells  is  completely  obliterated,  they  are  so 
nearly  transparent  as  not  to  interfere  with 
the  airy  lightness  at  which  we  aim.  They 
are  to  be  bleached  in  the  same  solution  used 
for  the  skeleton  leaves,  and  carefully  floated 
off  on  to  paper,  and  pressed  between  the 
leaves  of  a  book  till  needed  for  mounting. 

Labarraque’s  solution,  (sometimes  called 
solution  of  chloride  of  soda,)  a  preparation 
occasionally  used  in  medicine  and  as  a  dis¬ 
infectant,  is  preferred  by  some  for  bleaching 
the  skeletons,  and,  according  to  my  expe¬ 
rience,  is  preferable  for  ferns,  lycopods,  or  any 
other  vegetable  structure  in  which  the  green 
coloring-matter  has  not  been  previously  re¬ 
moved.  This  green  coloring-matter,  called 



by  vegetable  physiologists  chlorophyle,  is  an 
organized  material,  always  present  in  plants 
grown  in  the  light.  Its  relations  to  the  life  of 
the  plant  are  not  unlike  those  of  the  red 
corpuscles  of  the  blood  to  that  of  red-blooded 
animals.  It  is  hard  to  destroy  this  principle 
by  chemical  means;  and  hence,  when  we 
desire  to  bleach  a  fern  or  lycopod,  as  before 
stated,  we  shall  succeed  better  after  the  par¬ 
tial  bleaching  produced  by  time  and  the  slow 
process  of  drying.  Old  ferns,  brought  as  relics 
from  places  visited  long  ago,  and  which  have 
been  laid  away  between  the  leaves  of  a  book, 
generally  bleach  with  facility  with  either  of 
the  chlorinated  solutions.  Some  operators 
are  in  the  habit  of  macerating  ferns  for  a  few 
days  and  boiling  them  occasionally  in  the 
water,  by  which  means  the  chlorophyle 
appears  to  be  partially  decomposed,  and 
bleaching  becomes  practicable. 

As  much  disappointment  is  apt  to  occur  to 
the  inexperienced  in  bleaching,  it  is  neces¬ 
sary  to  observe  the  quality  of  the  bleaching- 



O  i 

materials.  Chloride  of  lime  should  be  dry,  or 
nearly  so,  and  should  have  a  strong  chlo- 
rinous  odor,  and  care  should  be  taken  in 
dissolving  it  that  it  becomes  thoroughly 
incorporated  with  the  water  by  stirring  or 
trituration.  The  powder  should  be  poured  into 
the  water,  not  the  water  on  to  the  powder, 
and  after  the  solution  is  made  it  is  to  be 
poured  off  clear,  or  filtered,  before  the  skele¬ 
tons  or  ferns  are  introduced.  The  solution 
should  not  be  prepared  until  it  is  wanted, 
it  is  even  more  important  that  Labarraque’s 
solution  should  be  fresh  and  properly  pre¬ 
pared;  it  is  a  more  active  bleaching-agent 
than  the  solution  of  chloride  of  lime.  When 
of  good  quality,  it  should  be  diluted  with 
from  four  to  eight  parts  of  water  for  bleach¬ 
ing  ferns  or  skeleton  leaves,  but  it  is  fre¬ 
quently  so  weak  as  to  require  scarcely  any 
dilution.  It  is  always  important  to  remove 
the  preparations  as  soon  as  they  are  per¬ 
fectly  bleached  to  prevent  their  becoming  too 
soft  and  tender. 

The  information  contained  in  tlie  foregoing 
pages,  besides  its  general  scope,  has  been 
specific  enough  to  enable  any  whose  tastes 
and  instincts  incline  them  to  attempt  skele¬ 
tonizing  to  begin  with  a  fair  prospect  of 
success.  These  will  naturally  desire  some 
hints  towards  rendering  the  specimens  they 
have  prepared  most  available  for  parlor- 
ornaments.  It  will  hardly  be  expected,  how¬ 
ever,  that  any  attempt  should  be  made  to 
enter  into  detail  on  this  part  of  the  subject. 

The  English  cases,  as  before  hinted,  usually 
contain  too  many  opaque  seed-vessels  for 
our  fancy;  and  many  of  those  arranged  in 
this  country  seem  to  have  been  grouped  too 
compactly,  with  the  aim  to  display  a  great 
variety  of  objects.  Our  preference  is  for  a 
loose,  airy-looking  arrangement  of  the  leaves, 
rising  at  the  summit  almost  to  contact  with 




the  glass  under  which  they  are  displayed. 
This  glass  shade  should  be  abundantly  large 
and  of  about  the  same  height  as  its  diameter. 
The  cushion  that  underlies  the  skeletons,  to 
our  taste,  may  best  be  of  green  velvet,  re¬ 
calling  the  image  of  verdure  in  contrast  with 

An  opened  and  inverted  stramonium-bur, 
with  its  tough  and  hollow  stem,  may  serve  as 
a  substantial  pedestal  for  the  airy  superstruc¬ 
ture  of  leaves,  while  the  more  solid  objects  of 
the  collection  may  be  interspersed  around  and 
upon  its  base.  One  of  the  most  appropriate 
surmountings  is  a  spray  of  fine  fern,  its  top 
curving  gracefully  under  the  shade,  its  fronds 
slightly  pendent  as  they  fall  on  either  side 
the  curved  stem. 

In  a  model  phantom  case,  arranged  by  a 
medical  friend, — himself  a  model  naturalist, 
“  humble  that  he  knows  no  more,” — a  delicate 
fern,  rising  to  the  summit,  trembles  with 
electric  vibrations  on  every  touch  of  a  silk 
handkerchief  to  the  glass,  while  a  little  tuft 



of  hydrangea-flowers,  loosed  from  its  moor¬ 
ings,  rises  to  the  top,  like  a  balloon,  when¬ 
ever  the  unseen  electric  flash  is  wakened 
even  by  dusting  the  surface  of  the  shade. 

Although  the  usual  form  of  phantom  case 
is  that  of  a  bouquet  under  a  glass  shade,  the 
fashion  has  lately  obtained  of  arranging  the 
specimens  in  an  oval  frame  behind  a  convex 
glass.  The  background  may  then  be  of  some 
rich,  dark  color  which  displays  the  white  skele¬ 
ton  leaves  in  strong  contrast.  A  grouping  of 
seed-vessels  at  the  base  of  the  bouquet  allows 
of  the  loose  ends  of  the  stems  being  collected 
and  concealed  from  view;  while  the  leaves  and 
fern-fronds  arc  spread  loosely  and  widely  over 
the  enclosed  space,  allowing  an  opportunity 
for  the  display  of  taste  in  their  arrangement. 
The  chief  objection  to  this  method  of  display¬ 
ing  the  products  of  the  art  arises  from  a  de¬ 
ficiency  of  light,  penetrating  the  recesses  of 
the  frame,  to  give  the  brilliant  effect  obtained 
in  the  bouquet  covered  by  a  transparent 
shade, — a  defect  obviated  only  in  part  by 



using  a  very  shallow  frame  with  a  deeply- 
convex  glass.  When  hung  against  a  wall, 
this  should  be  always  placed  opposite  a 
window,  or  in  such  position  as  to  command 
the  best  possible  light.  It  will  then  form  a 
fitting  ornament  to  the  parlor  or  drawing¬ 

Single  seed-vessels,  as  of  the  poppy,  the 
stramonium,  or  physalis,  or  small  group¬ 
ings  of  these,  constitute  neat  mantel-orna¬ 
ments.  They  may  be  displayed  to  advantage 
in  a  tall  wineglass,  or  a  small  vase,  preferably 
under  a  suitable  shade.  It  was  the  inten¬ 
tion  to  illustrate  the  mounting  of  the  speci¬ 
mens  by  appropriate  representations  of  these 
methods;  but  the  phantom  bouquet  is  too 
delicate  and  full  of  exquisite  detail  to  be 
well  represented  in  an  engraving;  and  even 
photography  here  fails  to  do  justice  to 
objects  which  to  almost  microscopic  fineness 
add  a  lustre  nearly  approaching  transpa¬ 


Ik  terming  the  phantom  case  a  perennial 
source  of  enjoyment,  we  have  used  an  ex¬ 
pression  fully  justified  by  the  fact.  In 
summer,  the  thoughts  it  suggests  are  in 
strong  contrast  with  our  surroundings:  its 
lleecy  whiteness  recalls  the  hoar-frost  and 
snow-flakes  so  pleasantly  associated  with  the 
season  of  active  exercise  and  cold  and  bracing 

When  Sidney  Smith  conceived  the  ludi¬ 
crous  notion  of  solacing  himself  under  the 
intense  heat  of  the  dog-days  by  laying  aside 
his  too  cumbrous  flesh,  that  he  might  sit  in 
his  bones,  he  revelled  in  a  fancy  which  might 
well  have  been  suggested  by  the  skeleton 

On  dreary  winter  days,  the  bouquet  may 
serve  to  recall  many  a  happy  hour  spent 
among  the  trees  clad  in  their  summer  verdure, 




— often,  perchance,  in  companionship  which 
has  enhanced  the  charms  of  nature,  while  it 
beguiled  the  toil  of  grateful  and  congenial 

Nor  is  this  fair  ornament  destitute  of 
that  highest  function  of  nature  and  art, — to 
lift  the  soul  from  grovelling  things  up  to 
the  regions  of  poetry  and  of  love.  It  dis¬ 
plays  in  a  most  attractive  aspect  that  union 
of  typical  forms  with  special  ends  which 
is  everywhere  discernible  as  one  of  the 
great  initial  ideas  of  the  Creator;  it  fitly  illus¬ 
trates  the  secret  perfections  hidden  among 
all  the  grosser  material  forms  which  sur¬ 
round  us ;  and,  above  all,  it  is  typical  of  that 
hidden  spiritual  outline,  obscured  by  the 
grossness  of  the  animal  nature,  but  which, 
through  that  love  which  is  infinite,  may 
survive  the  inevitable  decay,  to  shine  for¬ 
ever  in  spotless  purity  and  beauty. 

Fig.  4. 

Magnolia  Glatjca. 




I. — Hardy  Deciduous  Trees  and  Shrubs. 

Maples — including  European  sycamore. 

Poplars — Lombardy,  abele,  and  aspen. 

Lindens — American  and  European  species. 

Magnolias — including  Magnolia  grandiflora. 

Tulip  Poplar — Liriodendron  tulipifera. 

Willows — probably  all  the  species. 

Beech — Fagus  sylvatica ,  gathered  early. 

Asii — probably  several  species. 

Hickory — the  skeleton  splits,  in  drying. 

Chestnut — an  open  texture,  difficult. 

Horse-Chestnut — JEsculus  hippocasianum. 

Elm — Ulmus  Americana ,  “  The  Treaty  Elm.” 

Kentucky  Coffee-Tree — Gymnocladus  Canadensis. 

Pears — The  fruit-bearing,  and  Pyrus  japonica. 
Quince-Tree — Cydonia  vulgaris. 

Apricot — and  probably  the  plum,  with  care. 

Andromeda — an  ornamental  dwarf  shrub. 

Deutzia — a  remarkably  beautiful  venation. 

Spiraea — several  cultivated  species. 

Sassafras — producing  various-shaped  leaves. 

Althaea — -very  difficult  to  prepare 




Pomegranate — the  flowering  garden-shrub. 
Rose  Acacia — Robinia  hispida. 

Rose — several  species,  by  long  maceration. 
Medlar — Mespilas  javonica. 

Wild  Cherry — Cerasus  serotina. 

Sugar-Berry — Celtis  occidentalism 
Witch-Hazel — very  desirable :  gathered  early. 
Feaxinella  Dictamnus. 

Gardenia  Florida. 


Franciscea — very  handsome. 

Erythrina  Crystigalla. 

Yirgilia  Lutea. 

White  Fringe-Tree — Chionanthus  Yirginica. 

II. — Evergreens. 

Holly — difficult  to  prepare,  but  desirable. 
Maiionia — three  species,  various  forms. 
Barberry — Berberis  aristata  and  purpurea. 
Mountain  Laurel — Rhododendron. 

Box — leaves  small,  with  attractive  venation. 
Butcher’s  Broom — Ruscus  hypophyllum. 
Olea  Fragrans — beautifully  serrated. 
Camelia  Japonica — a  universal  favorite. 
Caoutchouc — Fagus  elastica ,  rare. 

III. —  Vines  and  Creepers. 

Ivy — Hedeora  helix ,  various  leaves. 

Bignonia — evergreen. 

Wistaria — Glycena  frutcscens. 

Dutchman’s  Pipe — Aristolochia  tomenlosa. 

Green  Briars — Smilax  rotundifolia  and  herbacca. 
Wild  Yam — Dioscorea  villosa. 



IV. — Seed-Vessels,  Modified  Leaves ,  and  Calyxes  which  have  been 
used  for  the  Purposes  of  the  Art,  prepared  chiefly  by  Maceration, 
or  found  naturally  Skeletonized . 

Thorn-Apple — Jamestown-weed,  Datura  stramonium. 

Poppy — the  Levant  heads,  and  cultivated  garden-poppies. 
Mallows — several  common  species. 

Nicandra — Nicandra  physaloides. 

Physalis — ground-cherry,  Physalis  viscosa. 

Henbane — Hyoscyamus  niger — English. 

Monk’shood — Atropa  Belladonna — English. 

Wild  Sage — calyx ;  various  species  of  Salvia. 

Safflower — False  saffron,  Carthamus  tinctoria . 

Canterbury  Bells — Campanula  medium. 

Toad  Flax — Linaria  vulgaris . 

Skull-Cap — different  species  of  Scuttelaria. 

Fig-Wort — Scrophularia  nodosa. 

French  Tomato — Jerusalem  cherry,  Solanum  pseudo-capsicum. 
Wild  Hydrangea — the  mature  corymb  of  Hydrangea  arbo- 

Hydrangea — the  calyx  of  the  ornamental  species. 

Bladder  Senna — Colutea  arbor escens. 

Bladder-Nut — Staphylea  trifolia . 

Ptelia — Wild  Hop — Ptelia  trifoliata. 

False  Pennyroyal — Isanthus  cserulia. 

the  end. 


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